The signs of fall are all around us; shorter days, cooler nights. It's time to begin thinking about fall rose care. If you live in a growing zone that typically does not have a frost until after mid December, or maybe no freezing temps at all, now is the time to give your repeat blooming roses some attention for a fall flush of blooms.
- Clear away any dropped leaves or other debris from around your rose beds. While you're there, also remove any weeds that have grown up around your roses. A clean garden helps to hold down disease and promotes growth.
- Remove any diseased leaves from the shrubs and if you spray, apply fungicide. There are many products on the market today; one I have had great luck with a product called GreenCure. It's a great all natural alternative to sprays that can be otherwise harmful to the environment.
- Now is a great time to shape your bush. If the growth has become unwieldy, begin by stepping back and look at the overall shape of the shrub. Make adjustments as needed to give your bush the shape you desire.
- At this time of year, my roses have reached 5-8' tall. I usually remove 1/3 of this growth and up to ½ if you have a particularly vigorous growing rose. I try to make cuts just above a 5-leafset that faces outward. This practice will produce new growth that will grow outward from the center of the bush and thus increasing air flow at the center of the shrub.
- This is also a good time to remove any dead or diseased wood and any canes that have not reached the size of a #2 pencil. Canes smaller than this size will likely not produce a bloom at all and often interfere with air circulation and growth of other stronger canes.
- Once your pruning is done, clear away all debris. Because many roses are prone to disease, I never place any rose cuttings in the compost bin. I always dispose of them elsewhere.
- Apply a good fertilizer to your shrubs following the manufacturer's directions. This is important, especially if using a chemical fertilizer. More is not better. You can damage or kill a rose by over fertilizing. Trust me. Out of that hard lesson learned, I have begun to use organic fertilizers on my roses and have experienced award winning results. Composted cow or horse manure spread at the base of your rose shrubs will give them a much needed boost. I have also had great results with brewing manure tea and applying as a foliar spray to my roses. I have found this particularly effective on young roses starts growing on their own roots or on fortuniana rootstock.
- Check the mulch level in your garden beds. A good 2-3" layer of mulch will keep weeds down and aide moisture retention at the roots.
- This is also a great time to clean up your gardening tools. I've been meaning to wash my shovel all year. Now is the time. I am also sharpening and oiling my pruners and other gardening tools. When the fall blooms do come, why not cut them and include them in your fall arrangements? They look spectacular among the autumn leaves and sunflowers…… Now with all that done, make sure you take some time this fall to just sit and enjoy your roses!